What if I was to tell you that you are not really who you think you are? It sounds like a line straight out of The Matrix, but for the majority of us, it’s true. It’s like a big secret that we carry around about ourselves and we think we’re the only one who knows it. The truth is, we all carry the same secret and we hope that no one else will ever discover it; it’s like a little game that everyone is playing, the person with the best poker face wins…or is the ultimate loser. You see, as human beings, we all share the same two fears and these fears shape our personalities and heavily influence the decisions we make every day of our lives. They are fundamental to our motivations and who we will become.
The first fear we share is the fear that I’m not enough; I’m not tall enough, I’m not short enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good looking enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m not worthy enough…whatever it is for you, we all have a fear that I’m not enough. Take a moment to have a good hard look at yourself. What is your, “I’m not enough…”? The second fear we share is that, if I’m not enough, then I won’t be loved, I won’t be accepted. Now, on the surface, that may not seem probable but these fears were developed very early on in our lives during a time when we didn’t have the cognitive skills that we now have as adults. When the brain develops, it develops from the bottom up; i.e., the brain stem, the emotional part of the part (the limbic system), the cerebral cortex and finally the pre-frontal cortex. In fact, the pre-frontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until between the ages of 18 and 25! Known as the executive system, the pre-frontal cortex is responsible for decision making, planning and problem solving. That’s why car insurance for young males is so high…it’s because the rational and risk based decision making part of the brain is still forming. So what’s this got to do with our two fundamental fears and how do they shape us?
There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true Self. ~ William James
When a child is born to a biochemically normal mother, the mother’s system is flooded with a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin has a powerful impact on the brain in that, even if the child looks like an alien straight out of…well, Aliens, she can’t help but love it. That child can spit up all over her, poo all over her, pee all over the place and still it’s the most adorable thing on the planet. If you’re a mother and you’re reading this, I imagine you smiling and nodding your head right about now. The child is quite literally bathed in a sea of unconditional love, it can do nothing wrong! But that doesn’t last forever, does it? The transition normally starts when the child becomes a little more ambulatory and starts to explore plug sockets and gets into places that might not be deemed safe. It’s at this point in the child’s life that it begins to understand the meaning behind its first word, “NO!” Of course, the parent has the best interest of the child in mind when she says, “No, don’t do that’”, “No, stop!” but the child, with limited cognitive ability, reads this as, “There’s something wrong here and that something is me. The most important person in my world is telling me that I’m wrong.” From this moment on, all we want to do is get back to that place of unconditional love, a place where, no matter what I do, I’m accepted…I’m loved. So how does this shape our personality?
Imagine the scenario where your mother comes into the room and she sees that you’ve built a big tower out of Lego, she picks you up and gives you a cuddle. “Did you do that all by yourself?” she squeals with joy and excitement. Then, a few days later, your dad sees something that you did all by yourself and again, makes you feel very special. Very quickly the child starts to link up, when I do things well, I get love…and so an achiever is born. What about the child who gets praised for sharing their food and toys and for putting others first? Very quickly a pleaser is born, and so on. Now there’s nothing wrong with being an achiever, or a pleaser, or a joker, or an analyst (“you’re smarter than that, make sure you get it right”) but it’s important to recognise in ourselves how this shapes our decision making. We always go back to what we know, especially under stress. So, if I’m an achiever who is under stress, what do you think I’m going to do? I’m going to throw myself headlong into a task. What about the analyst? Have you ever heard of paralysis by analysis? When pure analysts are under stress it’s difficult for them to make a decision in tight timeframes. I mean, how could they without having all the information and having a chance to think through all the variables and possible outcomes? As much as these personas are our strengths, at the other end of the continuum, they can also be our weaknesses…or strengths over used.
Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self. ~ Queen Latifah
We take on these personas because all that matters to us as young children is learning how to survive in this scary place called the world. Everything is new and we rely heavily on our care givers for guidance because without this guidance we could quite literally die. Therefore, to be worthy of love, we take on their values, beliefs, personal rules, and goals. We shape ourselves through these ‘conditions of worth’. The challenge for most of us is that we’ve been wearing the psychological mask that has been shaped for us for so long that we think it’s actually who we are. Psychologists refer to this persona as our false self. The false self is a cause of a lot of pain and uncertainty in life because how can you make those big decisions in life if you don’t know who you truly are? The greater the gap between the false self and the true self, the greater the sense of anguish, fear, doubt, and uncertainty we have in our lives. That’s why every fear has its basis in the universal fear of, I’m not enough…and if I’m not enough, I won’t be loved.
You can now see why everyone around you has these fears, some of us are just better at pretending than others but it’s true for us all. Finding your true self can take some time, it can be done through reflection and, as corny as it sounds, listening to your heart.
If you’d like to know how to fast track how to find your true self, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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